Classical Music: Three Vancouver Choir concerts sing during the Easter season

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While their spring performances are expected, the content and programming of the performances of the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Vancouver Chamber Choir and the Vancouver Cantata Singers reserve some surprises

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Vancouver Bach Choir

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Bach’s Mass in B Minor

When: Sunday April 17, morning at 3 p.m.

Or: Orpheum Theatre, 601 Smithe Street.

Tickets, more info: vancouverbachchoir.com

Vancouver Chamber Choir

Path of Miracles

When: Friday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.

Or: St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, 1022 Nelson Street

Tickets, more info: vancouverchamberchoir.com

Vancouver Cantata Singers

Eternal Embers: Songs of Fire and Love

When: Saturday April 23, 7:30 p.m.

Or: Blusson Spinal Cord Center, 818 West 10th Ave.

Tickets, more info: vancouvercantatasingers.com


Choirs and singers, Christian or not, know very well that the weeks around Easter are one of the busiest and richest periods of the choir year. It’s no surprise that the Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Chamber Choir and Vancouver Cantata Singers are all offering upcoming concerts, though the content and lineup of these events hold a few surprises.

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The first is the Vancouver Bach Choir, founded in 1930 and still going strong, with Bach’s Mass in B minor. Nothing unusual about that, other than singing it on Easter Sunday. Sunday concerts were virtually unallowed in conservative Vancouver in the 1930s, and the idea of ​​an Easter Sunday concert would have caused a major bead-hook. But why not present one of Bach’s greatest compositions — one of the greatest compositions of all time? — on this significant afternoon? As musical director Leslie Dala says, “I can’t think of a more fitting piece for the occasion and whether one is a believer or not, the power and magnitude of the work is universal.”

Vancouver audiences have heard many renditions of the Mass over the decades, ranging from gigantic casts with star soloists to stripped down versions by a handful of singers and instrumentalists. The interest of this mass in B minor, conducted by Dala, with a fine quartet of soloists conducted by soprano Rachel Fenlon and instrumentalists drawn from the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, is that it is an undertaking both for singers only for listeners. Part of the appeal of great choirs is the joy that phalanxes of singers derive from learning the great works of repertoire, and sharing the results with family, friends, and other enthusiasts makes it even better.

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Soprano Rachel Fenlon will headline a quartet of soloists in Mass in B Minor on April 17 at the Orpheum Theater.
Soprano Rachel Fenlon will headline a quartet of soloists in Mass in B Minor on April 17 at the Orpheum Theater. Photo by John Kelsey

The Vancouver Chamber Choir is a different ensemble, made up of selected and salaried professional singers led by Kari Turunen. For many years, the choir has organized a major event, usually at the Orpheum, on Good Friday.

This year the event is scheduled after Holy Week, and the big project is a new work by British composer Joby Talbot, Way of Miracles, celebrating the ancient pilgrimage to Saint Iago of Composetella in Spain.

Born in 1971, Talbot studied composition at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and then embarked on a career of extraordinary versatility, writing for dance, concert hall and opera, as well as for the cinema and television. (Remember the music from the BBC horror comedy series The League of Gentlemen? It was Talbot.) Path of Miracles, a 2005 a cappella journey along the Camino de Santiago, was commissioned by l Tenebrae crack ensemble and was picked up by ensemble voices everywhere.

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The Vancouver Cantata Singers perform Eternal Embers the following day in an untraditional performance space they have often used, the resonant atrium of the Blusson Spinal Cord Center on the Vancouver General Hospital campus. Artistic director Paula Kremer has concocted a program around the charming Neue Liebeslieder by Johannes Brahms, with Elizabeth and Marcel Bergman playing the sumptuous piano four-hand part. Rounding out the program is a rare rendition, possibly a Vancouver first, of Lili Boulanger’s 1912 Hymne au Soleil, set to music by 19th-century poet Casimir Delavigne. Then, as a real change of pace, the choir sings Sam Dabrusin’s arrangement of The Bangles’ 1980s hit Eternal Flame. Songs of Fire and Love indeed, and the kind of innovative lineup juxtapositions that distinguished the Kremer era at Cantata Singers.

  1. Boris Brott, famous Canadian conductor, was killed on April 5, 2022.

    The Remarkable Life of Boris Brott: A Famous Canadian Composer Killed in a Hit-and-Run

  2. Composers and singers of the novum musica project, in which members of the musica intima vocal ensemble work with emerging composers.

    Classical music: Vancouver’s musica intima enters the season with two projects

  3. We’ve got Vancouver’s classical music scene covered here


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